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March 2015

Wake Up To The Blues – Jodhpur, A Photo Blog

Early morning view of Jodhpur

Yes, that’s Jodhpur. It’s urbanscape is predominantly blue and the city looks really pretty early in the morning on a cold winter day. The Mehrangarh fort is surrounded by blue painted houses that composes this majestic view. 

Why always do a touristy thing ? Come with me on a tour of the beautiful city of Jodhpur. We will do things a bit differently. If you are on the spur traveller, if you love backpacking and if you indulge in street food, you are going to enjoy this ride. 

Camping In The Car. 
Don’t believe your eyes ? That’s correct. There is a mattress in there. I took shelter in the car for the night. It was very similar to a camping experience and it was fun too.I parked near the fort and it was a short drive the next the morning to the fort.  

On the way to fort early in the morning, the hues of blues were perfect to stop, admire and breathe in some fresh air. Soon the city will get busy and the magic will vanish. Surprisingly the fort is very well maintained, with cafes, souvenir shops and museums inside. But all that can wait for a while. It’s still not 9AM and the doors are yet to open. Good time to have some mouthwatering breakfast.

Dal Pakwan
Tiny transparent glasses for chai 
Street Food (Breakfast) 
Up close and personal. I am a food lover, you can tell. 
The delectable Dal Pakwan comprises of  – Pakwan, which is a hybrid between a roti and papad and is served with dal(lentils) with mirchi(paprika) It’s the local street side breakfast for most. I could not resist and therefore had a few bites of Jalebi followed by Kadak Chai to wash the oil spill down my throat.

Back in the car,  I then drive towards the fort. The first look is really impressive against the morning sky, a deep blue vignette making sure the large sandstone fort stands apart high on the hill top. Words are not my thing. Pictures are. So here is a glimpse of the few shots captured. 

The Mehrangarh Fort In The BackDrop 
In The Alleys 
The Colors 

The Black And White 
Inside The Fort 

Pictures and Story By: Sudip Bhattacharya

Sudip is a cha and food lover, traveller, backpacker, storyteller, an avid blogger who tells his story in a few words and many brilliant pictures and a very dear friend. This among many other passions he has.The world through his lenses always appears more insightful and all that he captures actually comes to life. Find more of his photo blogs here. 

Oh! The madness around cricket

I am the most unlikely person to be writing a post on the subject of cricket. My family would find this quite unbelievable and the husband will most definitely fall off his chair. There is a simple reason to that. I do not watch or the follow the game as much. I have always only been surrounded by the madness around it.
So why am I writing today? The mood is so somber after yesterday’s game that I just felt like jotting a few lines. If you are sulking and disappointed, it is very understandable. If you are blaming a certain actress, that is SO lame. If you are still critiquing the team, remember everyone has a bad day. Be kind to them. It was after all a game. We all have bad days at work and we all goof up.  (And please don’t roll your eyes on that statement.)
Now that it’s all over, what I am going to miss the most is the madness around it.
At my home, all the laptops, ipads, remotes, iphones sat huddled at one spot in the living room. The backup mechanism, if one device fails to airplay, switch to another before a single more run is scored. This was crucial, I deciphered. The television set to the loudest decibel, I overheard the man hollering instructions to the player. “They cannot hear you honey,” I pacified him several times but his ears were deafened to anything but the commentators.
I sat beside him reading some of the Facebook updates from my friends.
A few people were asking a friend to sit on the corner spot of the large couch at her home. This is where she sat for all the previous matches and India won the game.
As the match began, someone wrote, “Hope you are sitting at the same spot. Please don’t get up.” 
“I am all set with snacks and drinks here,” she replied with a picture of her sitting on a large red couch, surrounded with Lays and Namkeens.
Fifteen minutes later, “Hope you are not moving.” 
“I am just breathing,” she replied.
“Did you just take a loo break? We lost a wicket. Sigh! “
“I did. Ok, no more loo breaks I guess,” she responded with a big smiley.
Then there was someone who wore the same blue Madras check shirt for all the matches, his friends believing in the magic of his blue shirt. Yesterday his last status update said, “Packing the shirt away for the next WC.”
The shirt gave out a silent cry saying please don’t do this to me. What wrong have I done?
I grew up in a family where there was no dearth of such madness. My mother’s family is full of cricket fanatics. As a young girl I remember, my Dida (grandmother) cooking for the day, finishing all her chores before a match so that she could watch the game uninterrupted. My Dadu (grandfather) and my mom’s siblings would holler and scream much as I see my husband doing now.  With the five of them in the room, the commentators could seek retirement.
A small radio would be placed near the loo so that if someone took a break, they did not have to miss out on anything. The radio would be carried into the kitchen when food was being warmed or the tenth cup of chai was been made. But barring that much activity, everything was pretty much at standstill on those days.
I always prayed for India to win simply because that meant samosas, gulabjamuns and ladoosfor snack, a bit of fireworks in the neighborhood occasionally and a cheerful happy family.  The sadness created in the house by a mere lost game was too overwhelming to bear back then and even today.
The sadness can be comprehended but a lost game does not deserve the trolls.  If we take a look back at all the fun and entertainment that the “men in blue” have provided in this world cup and in the years before, a few lost games, a few drop catches and a few early run outs should make no difference.
So for now, I will give the man some company for the finals on Saturday night and soak in a bit more of this madness. I will certainly miss the sound of “It’s a out! It’s a out!” in the middle of the night. I will miss all the FB and twitter updates from my friends and all the cheering sounds from the neighbor’s house. I hope the guy with blue madras check shirt does not really wait another 4 years to adorn it.  I am glad my friend will sit wherever she likes on her lovely red couch for the finals.
And when this is all over, I will have the husband, the TV and all the remotes in our home back so that I indulge in some binge watching on Netflix.
Written By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra. Read more of her posts here 

Do The Kind Thing For The World

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”—- Lao Tzu

Stories and incidents on compassion have been narrated and heard, some of them have even touched our lives deeply. But those small, not so famous deeds and thoughts, that have a human touch to them, often go ignored because they don’t make into a great story. But a great story of a human reaching out to another in times of need sometimes begins with small and insignificant moves. Sometimes compassion can be in everyday life.

“Can you feel what I feel? Or do you always judge me for all that seems to be out of place to you?” 

Not many of us pause to think about this amid our super busy lives that we live today. Not many of us would feel the need to take responsibility to appease the sufferings of the less fortunate or the underprivileged. 

Let alone bigger endeavors, many a times we  fail to realize that simple, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness (such as educating your house help’s daughter, who cannot afford education, while teaching your own) can bring about a colossal change in someone else’s life. 

Compassion may not always be about addressing traumatic, insolvable issues of poverty, hunger and  shelter. It can sometimes be right around the corner – nudging us to walk the right path, to listen to our conscience and not simply walk away with an attitude of “I was not born to end the sufferings of every human soul on earth, or it is not my problem as I have too much up my sleeves already!”.

Compassion like charity begins at home. A lot of us (especially those living in countries like India) have domestic help who in due course of time become a part of the family. They clean our homes, babysit for us and cook for us. But most often they are the ones who cannot afford two square meals for their own families. Why go to an orphanage or NGO to donate clothes or money (although that would be  noble and generous too) when someone at home needs to get a treat of that kind bone in your body. Offering to give a little something over and above their regular pay/wage would not only help them but also bring you the satisfaction and pleasure. (I know the feeling as I have been there myself).

At a different level from another perspective, I feel compassion can sometimes be a savior for those who are at the brink of an emotional breakdown. Such people are sometimes one of us, maybe you or even me, who need a touch of kindness. Offering to do a daily chore for our family members who have had an exhausting long day and are at the end of their strength; or just stretching your long tiresome day a bit more to read to your toddler his favorite bedtime story without reasoning out with him (as you realize deep down that he missed being with you all day); offering to help your neighbor’s daughter with her science project (for which no matter how many “this” or “that” you had to move around in your absolutely packed schedule); giving away your seat in an overly crowded bus to someone unknown who needs it more than you; or maybe helping a differently abled person cross the streets at rush hour (something I have seen my older brother do almost every day while he was a student in India). 

The examples can be many and so hackneyed that we all can relate to most of them. Another niche that needs to be dealt with is compassion towards animals. As Sehopenhauer rightly said, “compassion for animals is ultimately connected with goodness of character; and he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” Although a bit harsh, nevertheless it conveys the idea.

Compassion is humanity, the thread that connects our hearts with our heads and lets the former (almost every time) triumph over the latter. So to make this world a better place, sometimes we just need to follow our hearts, act selflessly and always remember that not everything in life is done for material gain or reward or recognition or even a thank you. Acts of kindness always bring forth  blessings and heart felt good wishes. Sometimes it puts a smile on a sad face or ignites a hope in someone’s heart. 

Kind people can bring about a change in the world for they alone have the power to instill and hand over such values to the next generation who someday would take our place.

Written By : Anindita Sengupta, one of out storytellers here at Chatoveracuppa. You can read more of her stories and posts here. 

Picture By : Soumi Haldar 

A Promise

A promise to find a home. 

She was part of that home for more than 6 months now but he never spoke to her once or even acknowledged her presence among all. She felt he consciously ignored her, she was almost sure he hated her, But for what? She always wondered.

Continue reading “A Promise”

#1000Speak – What the children have to say about bullying ?

Adults are the ones who are found discussing bullying and issues related to bullying most often. So we asked some children we know, including the ones at our home, on their thoughts about bullying. Here are some visuals that will do the talking. 

The first one was found at a middle school, created by middle schoolers. We clicked them while they were wheeling this structure to a conspicuous location within the school. Each wall of the structure describes the different emotions of people involved in a bullying incident – The bully, the victim and the bystander. 

The wall for the bystander caught our attention. Bystander – Powerless, Upset,Scared, Sad, Very Angry, Wish I had Spoken Up, Would want to say stop.  

The next visual is a 8 year old’s representation of the bullying statistics. Girls are bullied more often than boys, that is what her graph has to say. She drew this after an incident at her school. She also said something and we got to pay attention to the last sentence there. 
“I want to stop bullying!
If you were getting bullied and I was there, this would be my perspective.
I would go up to the bully and tell him or her stop!
If they didn’t stop, I would then tell the teacher.
And I would do it even if I didn’t know the bully.
Bullying is not good.
If a boy is bullying a girl, he needs to be told that girls need to be treated with respect and equally.”

Children’s journals are usually a good place to get a view into what is happening in their lives. If your child writes a journal, there is nothing wrong if you sometimes sneak in to read it. It may tell you something you don’t already know. The next visual is a picture from a 7 year old’s journal. 
“Be yourself, don’t listen to others. Only listen if they say something good (to you). Look at the difference in both the girls.This first girl with the curly hair was being mean to the girl with straight hair.So the girl with the straight hair said, “I don’t like it when you do that.” But the girl with the straight hair said that politely. 
The last bit is where you need to pay attention. Bullying is not something you need to reciprocate and that needs to be taught too. 

#1000Speak – No One Is Born A Bully

Bullyingis on a rampant rise. Either that statement is true or it is being acknowledged and more openly discussed now like never before.
Bullying is not restricted to schools or colleges. There is a bully in every walk of life – a colleague at the workplace, a co-passenger on the public transport, the neighbor next door, the stranger who cuts through the queue or even a person within the confines of our own home. We deal with one at least every single day.
A few kids rough up a single kid on the playground, a college sophomore gets ridiculed and is isolated for being nerdy, an executive thrusts upon his ideas and behaves badly with coworkers at a workplace, a spouse or a partner imposes a restricted life and threatens to hurt – all of these are classic examples of bullying in the various forms that it exists among us.
But come to think of it, no one is really born a bully. So how does one become a bully?
An infant is the most innocent and purest soul that you can find. A toddler’s ear-to-ear grin and love for life is dangerously addictive. And then a child steps in to the initial workings of life such as a classroom, a playground or any group-learning place.
That is when for the first time you start hearing things such as “He /she is such a bully.”  Maybe not in those exact words always, but very often we have heard stories from children on how a classmate got into a fight with them and hurt them, a friend made them play a game they did not want to, someone bothered them on the bus ride to school, teased them or poked fun at their dress, hairdo or lunch.
It begins there in the formative years and then this behavior continues well into the adult life. Bullying does not have to be physical always. The mental ones are even more traumatic. A bully’s end goal is to overpower, demean and make another person feel inferior.
A bully is not born overnight. A child learns by what he/she sees around him/ her. A child’s behavior is a reflection of what he /she is seeing at home, at school and in the society at large. It could be an influence from a book, a game on the PS2 or a movie. It could be the child’s attempt to mimic an older sibling or the confrontations between the parents. Many a times it is a reenactment of the behavior we met out to our children. And sadly, sometimes the child is fighting just too hard to stay away from a label that has been bestowed on him.
Not every child who is aggressive is a bully, not every child who is quiet is shy and timid. The labels hurt them the most. More than we can imagine.  
So let’s be proactive and see what we can do to NOT raise a bully. We the parents, the educators and the citizens of this society, we are responsible for watching and keeping a check and help stop an innocent child transform into an arrogant bully.
When our children are bullied, we work hard to teach them to – Stand-up, fight for themselves.
When our children are the ones who are bullying, we need to work harder. We need to find the influence and the reason behind the behavior. We need to stop labeling them. We also need to stop defending them, even if we are in public. We need to stop ignoring and sweeping the issue under the rug. It will not go away. Lets stop pretending.
We don’t want to raise a bully, do we? We don’t, because no one is born a bully.

Written By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra for the #1000Speak initiative to talk about “Building From Bullying” for the month of March. 

Angels And Demons

A Short Story : Jolly Datta 
It was a chilly Friday night. She was alone and scared. Waiting in the corner of the Emergency Room (ER) she was shivering with cold, engulfed in pain and consumed with an unknown fear, the fear of loneliness, the fear of worthlessness and the fear of being unloved. Inflicted by a splitting headache, her migraine was causing hallucinations. She could feel the warm embrace of her mom, kissing her forehead, assuring her that everything would be fine. She could barely keep herself alert.  She saw a gentleman come and sit beside her as she struggled to smile. He could see that she was suffering and needed medical attention but couldn’t break the protocol of “waiting”.

Continue reading “Angels And Demons”

Hiking The Yosemite National Park – A Photoblog

Yosemite National Park is spectacular any time of the year and I had been there in winter, spring and summer with family and friends. But a week at Yosemite in the middle of February with 70 enthusiastic 12 and 13 year old middle schoolers was a different experience altogether.

The buses dropped us at Curry village and we said goodbye to cell phones, laptops, all apple products and motorized vehicles. It was going to be a week of walking, hiking, activities and more walking. Breakfast at 7:10 am, dinner at 5:10 pm sharp. Lunch somewhere on the way.

Cabins at Curry Village
We stayed away from the metal roads and walked among the pine and sequoia trees, along the Merced river, on deserted trails. Wherever we looked we were surrounded by nature’s eternal beauty.  
A glimpse of the Yosemite fall
Merced River 
Besides the daily hikes, several team building activities were conducted. The kids got to know each other, trust one another and work as a team. A glimpse of some of the fun activities in the next few pictures. 



The kids went exploring into unknown territories and learned to overcome their fears. One of the challenges was to dunk your head in the ice-cold freezing water of the Merced river and hold that position for 30 seconds. They braved the chill and did it so sportingly. 

Dunking into the icy cold Merced river
Each day was a new adventure, a new discovery, a new trail and a new destination.
Getting ready to explore the unexplored caves
Mirror Lake
The kids learned about environment and conservation. They learned to eat an apple to the core. They learned to use their napkin – the crumb catcher – in such a way that they didnt drop a single crumb on the ground. They happily picked up the litter the tourists had left behind and were amazed at the thoughtlessness of people who threw plastic and cigarette buds all around. 

Lunch on the crumb catcher
We all learned about endurance when we took up the challenge to climb to the top of Nevada and Vernal Falls. Many of us were first time hikers. But we helped each other along the way and did the 9 mile streneous hike without complaining.

Nevada Falls
View of Vernal Falls on the way back
When in such surroundings, it is easy to fall in love with nature and to learn to appreciate the beauty and tranquility all around. In the brief moments of pauses in the hike, we would silently watch the beauty around us and soak everything in. 

The bridge on the Merced River, The bridge to eternal beauty 

While most people take pictures in such places, there are some who find a perfect spot to describe it all in words. A picture of someone from the group who found a quiet spot to write a journal.

A perfect spot to write in his journal!

I am not a hiker but I love to travel. This experience at Yosemite leaves me very inspired to do more hiking trips in future. Of course, I will take my camera along. 

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” 

― John Muir

Pictures and Narration By Soumi Haldar

Women’s Day And My Trip To The Police Station

After days of putting it on the back burner, I decided that I will get a work done with for once and all. The work was nothing extraordinary. I had to go to the police station and report a lost passbook (a document used in many banks to keep log of banking transactions). I have crossed this particular police station near my home many times before and observed all kinds of people lining up in front of the station. Some looked harassed, may be they were there to lodge a complaint. Some certainly looked like they had done or were associated with something criminal. There were rowdy, bully sort of people, who could care for nothing. A police station is not a place a woman would ever want to visit in India. That is the primary reason I was putting off my visit for a month now. 
Finally, I mustered the courage and went to the police station yesterday. There was a cop sitting and working at his desk. He noticed the perplexed look on my face. He took a look at the draft of the complaint in my hand and directed me to another officer. I walked into the room next door. There was a cop working on his computer and reading a newspaper. It looked as if he was typing something off the newspaper. There was another one sitting behind a pile of files and folders (unsolved cases perhaps). A few people stood in the room waiting for their turn to discuss their matter. They were being made to wait because the cop has all the authority and no one else dare challenge him, even if the cop was doing nothing. There was an awkward silence in the room, interrupted by the occasional sound of the wireless walkie-talkie every now and then. 
One of the cop looked at me and said, “Madam, What do you need?” 
I handed the draft of my complaint to him. He asked for a valid ID proof, I handed that as well. He then read the complaint (called FIR in India) and said to me, “Please, add you husband’s name to the report.” 
“Why do you need my husband’s name? My passbook is lost. Not his.“ 

“We cannot file it without your husband’s name. We need his name for your identification.” 
That definitely did not make any sense. Sounding a bit furious, I asked the policeman, “If my husband lost his passbook, would you need my name in the report for identification?” 

The people who stood in the room let out a laugh. 
The policeman got severely annoyed. He looked at me, furious, I could tell. “That is the rule. This is how it has been happening for years. If you want to file this complaint, we need you husband’s name on the report for your identification.” 
A woman in many government documents in India, still needs to have a person assigned who is responsible for her, a father or a guardian if unmarried and the husband if she is married. This is after presenting a valid ID proof of her own. A police station in India is not the right place to argue about the validity of such requirement. To avoid being mistreated, very unwillingly I wrote my husband’s name in the report and it was filed. 

This incident happened a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The celebrations seem almost ironic since we still cannot respect the existence of a woman by herself. Women’s day and all the talks around it, seem like a joke. Every woman encounters such challenges here on a day-to-day basis and nothing is still being done to correct it. 

In the face of reality, all this talk about equal place for women in the society, just falls flat. 

Written by : Sonali Banerjee, our regular storyteller. This is based on a real incident that took place this week, just a day after International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2015. 

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